Two businesses owned by UT students were recently awarded a total of $25,000 in the fall 2017 Boyd Venture Challenge. The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business hosted the seed fund grant competition.
EasyWhip, a surgical tool, and Campus Car, a ridesharing company, were selected from a group of eight finalists. A panel of four judges determined the funding awards.
“The judges saw an impressive group of finalists this semester and provided insightful feedback,” said Tom Graves, operations director of the Anderson Center. “We’re pleased to offer this opportunity to help our student entrepreneurs move their businesses forward.”
EasyWhip, founded by Lia Winter, was awarded $12,500. Winter created the surgical tool to decrease the time and costs associated with certain orthopedic reconstruction procedures. With the funds received, she will seek a full patent for EasyWhip and optimize the tool’s design.
“The Boyd Venture Challenge was an amazing and exciting experience. I was able to apply the concepts that I’m learning in my business classes to my innovative biomedical engineering idea to develop a comprehensive and feasible business plan,” said Winter. “I also made connections with mentors in the Anderson Center who encouraged me and helped me achieve my goals. I think the Anderson Center is an invaluable resource that students should take advantage of during their time here at UT.”
Winter, from Pittsburgh, is in the biomedical engineering program in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering and is an MBA candidate in the Haslam College of Business.
Campus Car, a campus-based ridesharing company, was awarded $12,500. Ryan Cunningham of Collierville, Tennessee, a junior supply chain management major and entrepreneurship minor, founded the company.
Cunningham launched the flat-rate ride-sharing company in October after using funds from a previous Boyd Venture Challenge to build the Campus Car cell phone application. The company hires UT-affiliated individuals as independent contractors to provide low-cost transportation to and from campus in downtown Knoxville, Fort Sanders, and the campus area.
“The funds received this semester will allow me to expand the Campus Car service area and continue to serve UT and the Knoxville community,” said Cunningham. “I am very thankful for the opportunities provided by the Boyd Venture Challenge.”
The Boyd Venture Challenge is made possible by the generosity of Randy Boyd, founder and executive chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, makers of PetSafe, Invisible Fence, and SportDog brands.
The Boyd Venture Challenge is administered each fall and spring semester. It is open to UT undergraduate and graduate students from any field of study. An outside panel of judges from the business community decides the funding awards. Since the fund’s inception in 2011, 39 student-owned companies have been awarded a total of $337,000 in seed capital to advance their businesses.